Thursday, July 7, 2011

Friday Fiction for July 8, 2011

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Lynn Squire, the gifted author of “Joab’s Fire” (an excellent story, by the way), at Faith, Fiction, Fun, and Fanciful. Be sure to visit and enjoy some great writing.

This week is a short, stand-alone story that has been circulating in my mind for a while. It’s a bit different than my normal fare, but I hope you enjoy.

Der Tod

(The Death)

By Rick Higginson

His family sat close by, waiting for the end that was imminent. He held no illusions of recovery; at his age, most people were amazed that he hadn’t died years ago. Though his body was rapidly failing, his mind was still fully aware, and he smiled inside. He had won. For all the years, no one had ever discovered his secret. Not his wife, nor his children, nor any of his neighbors or business associates. He would take the secret to his grave, and that would be the end of it.

A tube fed oxygen to his nose, helping his feeble lungs as he strained to keep breathing. His pulse was weak, and though he thought of it frequently, his arms lacked the strength to even pull the tube from his nose.

He felt pressure on one hand, and cut his eyes to that side. His eldest granddaughter was squeezing his hand and speaking, though without his hearing aid, he could only tell by the movement of her lips. She was just one of his progeny, queuing by his bed to express their love and to say farewell to their patriarch. Her face began to fade, as if the room was filling with mist, and he lost all sensation in his extremities. With an almost cold analysis, he recognized the moment of death, before all awareness left him.


It was cold, and voices were shouting all around him. Confused, he opened his eyes to dull, gray skies and patches of snow on the ground. He held his hands in front of his face, and saw pale skin hanging from gaunt arms. Hands lifted him from either side.

“Get up,” a voice hissed from his right. “You do not want them to shoot you right here, do you?”

He looked to his right. The man wore a dirty uniform over his emaciated frame, and his sunken eyes held a blank, hopeless expression.

“What?” he muttered. “Where are we?”

“You do not remember?” the man replied. “How do you forget being in hell?”

Hell? Was there truly a hell, after all? “I don’t understand,” he said.

“I do not blame you. If I could forget this place, I would.” They plodded along in the line of men. “I do not think Birkenau will be our home much longer, though. Those who walk this way, do not come back.”

Birkenau? Is this some trick of the dying mind? I cannot be back at Birkenau, and especially not as a prisoner.

“The faster you move along, the sooner you will escape from this cold,” a strong, confident voice called to the throng of men. He stared at the face of the young officer with a sick sense of recognition.

That cannot be – this must be some form of dying dream. It will end. It will have to end, when my brain finally dies.

“What are you staring at, pig?” the officer yelled at him, and then gestured to a nearby corporal. “Hurry him along. He thinks he has time for sight-seeing.”

The corporal responded by rushing over and slamming the butt of the Mauser into his back, nearly knocking him back to the ground.

How can the pain be real? I cannot feel my real back, so how can I feel a dream? Still, he could not take his eyes off the officer.

“Since he is so interested in me, bring him here,” the officer ordered.

The corporal grabbed him roughly by the arm, and dragged him out of the line. He was thrown to the ground at the officer’s feet, and stared up into the merciless eyes.

Did I really look like that, all those years ago? He already knew what was coming.

“Since you like the look of my face so much, pig,” his younger self said, drawing the Luger from his holster. “It can be the last sight you see.”

He stared up the barrel of the pistol, remembering how the Jewish man had not flinched away, even as he had pulled the trigger. He had wondered if the man had seen the flash of the shot, before the bullet punched through his brain, and it struck him as bizarre that he should remember that as the finger pulled the trigger.


He sat up with a start, still feeling that final moment of being shot in the head. He was in a dimly-lit room, with bare masonry walls. A tall figure stood in front of him, though it was as if he couldn’t see the person if he looked directly at him.

“That was one,” the figure said. “And this will be the only time I will visit you, lieutenant.”

“Who are you?” he asked.

“You can call me whatever you wish – the Angel of Death, a Minister of Judgment, or the Devil himself. It does not matter. I am just a messenger, and now that you have experienced the judgment, you will believe me when I deliver the message. The courts of Earth could only have executed you once for the murders you committed, but the courts of Eternity are not so limited. You will relive the deaths you caused, as the victims, until you have completed them all. You will experience the suffering you inflicted, and when you have finally accomplished them all, you will find an eternity that will make you wish you could start over.”

“This cannot be happening,” he said.

“Tell yourself that all you wish,” the messenger said. “It will change nothing. I am finished here, and your next death will begin shortly.” The figure vanished, leaving him alone in the room.

He glanced down at the thread-bare shift covering him, and the slender, feminine legs extending from beneath it.

A door opened, and the officer stepped into the cell. “Yes, you are a pretty thing,” he said, leering down. “We shall have an enjoyable time, you and I.”

“Please, no,” he said, the voice that of a frightened girl. It was going to be a very long, and very horrible, night.

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